What I gained from volunteering in health promotions at school

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I’ve always been indecisive about major decisions and choosing a career path was no exception.

When I was in high school, I dreamed of becoming a medical researcher who would make a discovery that would land me in biology textbooks across the country.

When I went to McMaster University to study life sciences, I began to change my mind. I just didn’t know what I wanted to change it to.

Even my Myers-Briggs test results were indecisive, telling me I should equally be involved in writing or science.

I learned about the peer health educators in my third year at McMaster and joined them the following year. The volunteer position involves health promotion through various methods such as bulletin boards, information booths, presentations in residences and articles in the Campus Health newsletter.

I was looking for an experience to meet new people and learn something new. As a member of the health and fitness team, I was excited to talk to people about two of my personal interests.

Throughout the year, I helped design and put up billboards across campus, manned information booths and wrote for the Campus Health newsletter.

I got to meet and work with a great group of people and I had a lot of fun throughout the year. But besides the social benefits, volunteering in health promotion helped me decide to pursue a master’s degree in journalism.

I learned how to talk to people

I’ve always been shy. Being a peer health educator helped me get over my fear of talking to strangers. Something that always put me off being a journalist was the idea of talking to people I didn’t know all the time. Chatting with students while manning awareness tables in the student centre, or hosting a table on various sexually transmitted illnesses in a residence helped me get over my fears.

I learned how to communicate outside of essays and lab reports

It also made me an effective communicator. While I was able to write effectively in academic assignments, talking to students about health issues helped me become a better speaker. This has helped me in meetings and journalistic interviews.

It gave me an appreciation of knowledge

I don’t want this to sound cheesy, but I really do believe knowledge is power. Whether it was talking to students about quitting smoking or why they should wear a condom, my experiences as a peer health educator made me realize that knowledge and common sense are two different things, and that some knowledge should not be taken for granted. It made me want to share knowledge and facts with others.

In short, my on-campus experience was so much fun and expanded my horizons. If I hadn’t been involved in health promotions, I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to apply to journalism school since I really wasn’t sure I would ever be able to approach a stranger for an interview.

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About the author

Erin Albert is an assistant editor with TalentEgg's LAUNCH Magazine. She holds a B.Sc. (Honours) in Life Sciences with a minor in Environmental Studies from McMaster University, and an MA in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario. She has a passion for storytelling in several mediums. Erin’s work has been aired on CBC Radio and CHRW 94.9, and has been published on rabble.ca and in the London Free Press.